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Writing Class

Dreamed 1984/3/27 by Chris Wayan

I was in my high school a second ago. What happened? Tile roofs out the window, big tower... This looks like Stanford! But things seem about the same. We sit meekly, they spoon-feed us...

It's a writing class. The others discuss a short story by a great white author. My classmates are all well-off: they have easy, articulate reactions to the story's "realistic" world of relationships, careers, family, degrees, respect, purpose--a common ground of meanings made possible by support I never had. The story means nothing to me but a reminder of my own deprivation. I sit silent; at last a classmate asks my opinion; the prof listens, curious. I say "I can't feel anything about this kinda stuff any more." They look confused, then decide I meant "I can't understand it." Hopeless.

The teacher gives us an assignment--a choice of topics. Every one's squarely in their world, outside mine. I'll have to fake feelings to "pass"--in both senses.

The teacher corners me after class, suggests we take a walk around the quad. The huge round planters are being cleared of sixty years of undergrowth. Trees will lose friends. The floodlights over the arches, put in to freeze student mobs during the Vietnam protests, are coming down at last. I'll miss their whiff of prison. Such an honest, homely statement--the students are our enemies, our product, our meat. Meat the people! Now all we'll see is the church mural with Jesus leaping out like Batman. Nice and garish, showing off the real European craftsmanship so important to an early California robber baron's reputation. Oh yes, you were saying, professor?

"I couldn't follow the story you submitted. The prose was too bizarre. I had no idea what you meant by those fantasy intrusions."

It was a direct transcription from my diary. My life. One day and one night of plain journalism.

"You're obviously talented, very imaginative, but I don't know if you'll fit in our... class." I start, hopping into the air a bit! Did he read my mind--or my notebook? All my catty notes about social class... "Of course, I let you in on the recommendation of X."

X is a close friend of my father's! I never suspected I got in because of INFLUENCE! Let in as a FAVOR to X? I'm angry--I'm better than the tame showdogs in this class!

He says, "Of course an artist can't choose his style, but you're only going to appeal to an elite few, since your work, though stylistically rewarding, is so difficult to read."

I blurt "No, I CAN choose my style, I don't even care about style. I like content, message--I just don't know how to tell stories about being psychic, or abused, or transgendered, in "simple" English. I've even tried different media than writing--cartoons, poems, songs, paintings. I want advice, shit, a class poll, on what conveys my life to normal people. I came here to try out styles on a group."

So my writing teacher starts polling everyone we pass--geology students, tired gardeners, a psych professor, two wall-climbers covered with chalk, camera-lugging tourists... "Do you prefer dreamlike difficult writing, or less intense but easier writing?" THAT'S all he got from what I just said?

I see, now, that I've set him up as a mentor, when he just doesn't know my subject matter. He's used to students making ordinary events seem extraordinary through style, and he's used to helping them find the right level of stylistic experimentation--usually by toning it down. But I want to make unbelievable events believable. He's no help there, when he doesn't believe. He's never been anyone but himself, in this body, this quadrangular world. My experiences are delirium--to him, I am fiction.

I'll have to solve this on my own. The poet Al Young warned me years ago--"You work by slow accretion." I'm not going to change very fast. Not in my art or my life. No point trying to be what others want.

Slow? Wait a minute! I'm prolific. I write a little masterpiece every morning! Only when I try to make the night's events acceptable to my fantasy of an ordinary reader do I get slow, confused, fuss with the frame, polish the glass with sandpaper, and in the end, turn the glowing bodies and wise wide eyes of the animal gods toward the wall, and let the visitors in to see the respectable, abstract BACKS of my dream-paintings...

The hell with it. I walk away from the Stanford Writing Class and all they mean, away, away, away, between the tiled roofs, across campus... into another and more challenging dream.

2001 NOTE

This dream lay in my diary six years before I typed it up. It was the second of TEN dreams that night. The next seven dreams were wild, not tame. And more fun.

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